This is part one of a two-part report.
Lebanon erupted in massive protests this October. The demonstrations transcended sect and class, and quickly spread across the country. The movement was spurred by the levying of regressive taxes and the persistence of a corrupt neoliberal order that has mismanaged the economy and hollowed out the public sector while enriching a handful of elites amid a looming economic collapse.
Though the protests remain focused on class issues and corruption, the US is increasingly determined to co-opt the movement for its own goals. At the forefront of Washington’s agenda is ousting Hezbollah from the Lebanese governing coalition and marginalizing the Shia political-military movement as a means of weakening Iran. In its place, the US and its proxies inside Lebanon are demanding a “technocratic” government with no interest in resisting Israel.
Former US ambassador to Lebanon Jeffrey Feltman explicitly spelled out US interests during recent congressional testimony, proclaiming that the protests “fortunately coincide with U.S. interests” against Hezbollah. He urged stepped-up American intervention, emphasizing “the value of domestic initiative combined with external [Western] support.”
Leftist groups responded angrily to Feltman’s rhetoric, staging a protest outside the US embassy and posting a massive billboard in downtown Beirut depicting the former diplomat above a slogan calling on Washington to leave Lebanon alone.
American meddling in the protests is not yet a full-scale operation, however it has been seen through the presence of US-backed political parties and activists backed by the most familiar outfits of the US regime-change machine: the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the US Institute for Peace (USIP), and USAID.
Together, these elements are seeking to popularize the call for a technocratic, Hezbollah-free government in provocative actions across the country.